January 18th, 2018

PT3 puts schools in charge

I WOULD like to respond to the letter “A mistake to decentralise Form 3 exam” ( The Star, Jan 15) since this matter is of utmost importance to tens of thousands of stakeholders, and especially the school authorities.

Apparently, decentralisation of the Form 3 exam (PT3) has been a hot topic of discussion among teachers, school administrators and parents, and, unfortunately, there has been no consensus of opinion.

The writer opined at length to oppose the decentralisation of PT3, highlighting the failure of the system in the United States as an example.

However, my nephew who has three teenage children studying in Florida always criticises the centralisation of education in our country when he is back here on holiday. Decentralisation of education has been practised in the US for umpteen years.

Thus, my views on this subject are absolutely opposed to the writer’s.

For decades, we have been having the standardised Form 3 exam, first known as SRP, then PMR and now PT3, where marks are allocated for assignments besides the highly centralised standardised year-end exam conducted by the Education Ministry.

But with decentralisation, the administration of the exam will be handled by the schools themselves, that is the principals and teachers are solely responsible for running the exam.

This means that the responsibility will be shouldered by the school authorities.

Consequently, I believe this will lead to more flexible, innovative and creative management of the exam by the schools and with supervision from the district education office and state education department, leaving the Education Ministry to focus mainly on policy matters.

The teachers who are directly concerned with teaching and assessing the students are in the best position to know exactly what the subject matters to be tested are, including the HOTS (high order thinking skills) critical and problem-solving questions.

Naturally, the principals would be more confident of the capabilities of their teachers to shoulder such responsibilities as they work together for their students’ academic performance.

Decentralisation of the exam will empower and enable the principals to tap the resources of the teachers to do things more effectively and efficiently, which invariably will raise the level of motivation among the teachers, who will be groomed and encouraged to take on more responsibilities.

Like lecturers at institutions of higher learning, the teachers teach their students, set the appropriate exam questions and mark the answer papers in order to assess the students’ academic performance.

Additionally, every member of staff needs to be actively involved in the process of conducting the exam, particularly those in the lower administrative level who are often tasked with printing and storing the exam questions in the strongroom for security reasons.

With decentralisation of the Form 3 exam, the principals and teachers will have to make important decisions regarding the academic wellbeing of their students.

And most importantly, students will not be pressured or stressed by the school authorities in the public exam to achieve straight As and high overall results in quantity and quality to unnecessarily compete unhealthily with other schools and to please the education authorities.

Actually, the system of decentralisation administered by the Education Ministry is not foreign to schools. It is just an extension of the diagnostic monthly or term tests that schools routinely conduct to assess students on what have been taught and the summative end-of-the-year exam to determine their performance.

Ultimately, decentralising PT3 will result in enhancing the level of professionalism among principals, teachers and clerical staff to conduct a public exam themselves.

All they need, I suppose, is financial allocation from the Education Ministry, and this should not be a problem because they will save enormous funds and manpower by not conducting the PT3 exam.

Nonetheless, the district and state education departments must ensure that there is the highest level of integrity, credibility and accountability among the school authorities to win the confidence of parents in particular, that the schools are prepared and able to administer the school-based Form 3 exam themselves.

The check-and-balance assessment of the school education system will eventually be the ultimate Form 5 exam which, unlike the PT3, is recognised by almost all local and foreign colleges and universities, and employers.

Thomas Kok Ipoh The STAR Malaysia Opinion Letters January 18, 2018

Training teachers to manage

There are different opinions given in disciplining school children in Malaysia. Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said school heads are allowed to delegate caning to a teacher if the need arises. (The STAR, 29 September 2017)

While a child therapist said there must be another way for teachers to discipline students without resorting to corporal punishment.

Even parents have different opinion on this matter.  And when nothing is seen as the best result, it all comes back to the school and of course the teachers who will now have to bear the burden.

Let us go back where the teachers are trained that is the Teacher Training Institute or Institut Pendidikan Guru program. Some would ask whether Classroom Management program in the curriculum fits in. Though it was emphasized that teacher trainees need to enter the classroom with practical skills in handling a classroom, it is how good they can manage a classroom that counts.  With little exposure or experience let’s pray they can do it.

Studies show that children learn best in an orderly engaging environment. Children also respond to discipline in different ways as they different.

Students having discipline problems are identified and seen as the unproductive group of children with low-level disruptive behaviours, the disengaged behaviours and the aggressive and the anti-social behaviours.  Low-level disruptive and disengaged student behaviours occur frequently, and teachers find them difficult to manage. Aggressive and anti-social behaviours occur infrequently.

Most teachers relied on intervention strategies to curb unproductive behaviour, while some use a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule which are used to deter students from disrupting the learning environment.

Since caning and corporal punishment is now debated and seen as inappropriate to mend behaviours, what is the call for the best solution?

Many psychologist, counselors or therapist prefers the step-by-step approaches usually begin with a warning, in-class timeout, out-of-class timeout, being sent to school leader, then suspension and exclusion. They involve isolating students from their peers and removing them from their learning.

Seem sensible as it allows the teacher to continue to teach and other students to continue to learn. However, the “offending” students find it hard to get back into learning after missing work and continue to disengage from schooling.

Educators appear to understand that dangers and activities that removing students from their learning don't generally work. Placing students in timeout are not compelling at settling the issue. Truth be told, they intensify it after some time.

Considering the physical condition, the curriculum and resources and the teaching strategy can keep students from getting to be withdrawn and accordingly getting to be noticeably problematic. Teachers should try teaching critical thinking, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills so that students don’t fall back on animosity to adapt to circumstances. Concentrating on counteractive action is the key.

Teacher training should include figuring out how to set up, engaging proper learning conditions. Most teachers will faced and experience the low-level problematic and disengaged behaviours, so it is critical that educators figure out how to keep such practices from happening in any case.

Teachers should consider not focusing to “clean” student behaviour using rewards and consequences. Maybe they should look to understand the betterment way of teaching and applying the ‘element across the curriculum’ and the manner the student behaves.

Maybe the Teacher Training Institutes need to ensure the teacher trainees learn and be trained on how to create and maintain supportive and safe learning environment.

It should recognize the importance of the whole learning environment, rather than just focusing on managing student behaviour.

There will never be one approach that can be connected over all schools and classrooms to avert and react to unproductive students behaviours.

Teacher training program need to show methodologies, abilities and systems for dealing with ineffective understudy conduct in ways that are educative and minding, at the same time, in particular, that attention on the most proficient method to forestall such conduct happening in any case.

AZIZI AHMAD Kuala Lumpur The Star Malaysia Opinion Letters 18 Jan 2018